Friday, May 20, 2005

Too Old to Live, Too Slow to Die

"Gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to report that the recent trial of the Longevity Solutions Department was a resounding success and that it will become an established branch of the Clapham Ambulance very soon. As one of those fortunate enough to be involved in its conception and its birth, I hope to be able to take an active part in its day to day life and development for many years to come, and I'm delighted to inform you that I have been appointed by the Chief Executive as LSD Coordinator for an initial one-year period.

"The work we have done so far, and will continue to do, is of exceptional value both to the local community and to the country as a whole, and I'm certain that our pioneering work here in Clapham will be emulated with vigorous enthusiasm throughout the length and breadth of England in the very near future. I am reliably informed that many, many Strategic Health Authorities are watching our first fledgling steps with keen interest and, I suspect, more than a little envy, and I don't think I exaggerate when I say that the LSD represents the future of healthcare in this country and I am very proud to be a part of it."

And, of course, I get to kill old people.

I'm fairly certain I didn't actually say that last sentence out loud, but the thought has not been far from the surface for several weeks now. I was speaking at a meeting of the Clapham Ambulance Operational Innovations Committee about my latest pet project. Somehow, Ron Stretcher has persuaded the chairman, Sir Leslie Pitt-Tinny, MP, OBE, to finance the development of what has always been every ambulanceman's secret dream - a dedicated euthanasia squad. And the real beauty of it is that it will not cost anything at all to operate; it will actually be run as a profit-making concern. And I have been put at the helm of this lovely little earner.

Research has found, not surprisingly, that most people would rather their ancient relatives died before rather than after the entire inheritance has been squandered on years of wasteful palliative nursing care and costly and futile medical operations. Why, people ask, should the proprietors of so-called care homes and private hospitals and the manufacturers of stair lifts and incontinence pants get money that is rightfully mine? Better, surely, to spend a few quid now getting the old timers despatched humanely while there's still some money left and enough time to enjoy it; it's just basic economics and old-fashioned common sense. There's little room for sentiment in this day and age.

So, when it's time for granny to take that final, one-way trip, send for the LSD.

Of course, the cost of our services is always open to a little civilised negotiation; our methods are flexible, our terms reasonable, and there are always lower-cost options available to those blessed with more discretion than cash. My role as coordinator has enabled me to put together a small team of specialists prepared to carry out private work out of hours, as it were, for selected clients. Cash in hand, so to speak. No questions asked, if you get my drift. How can I put this? Look, to be perfectly blunt, if you want Stan Tablets to come round one evening and wring the old girl's neck, he'll do it for forty quid.

Now I can't say fairer than that, can I?